A couple of weeks ago, Eloisa James and I were talking about the books that made us cry. That got me to thinking about all of the books that made me fall in love for the first time. I'm talking about the children's/young adult books that weren't necessarily considered romance, but started a lifelong love affair with the genre.
One of my favorites was Elizabeth George Speare's Newberry Award winning book THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND. I read it so many times that to this day I can still see echoes of Speare's writing style in my own work. I've never forgotten courageous Kit Tyler and Nathaniel Eaton, the handsome captain's son who ends up rescuing her from the small-minded villagers who believe she's a witch. (And yes, Eloisa has mentioned this book before because it's one of her favorites too!)
Another of my first loves was Alamanzo Wilder from Laura Ingalls Wilder's LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE series. (Not the blond, banal Alamanzo from the TV show, but the dark and slightly more dangerous Alamanzo from the books.) When Laura became a teacher, it was Alamanzo who would drive her through the snowdrifts to the schoolhouse each day. He was the strong, silent type, but you could almost feel the romantic tension vibrating between them.
I still remember Gwen Bristow's CALICO PALACE and those other wonderful westerns where the wagon trains were heading west and romance and adventure were always waiting along the trail. Ditto WILDERNESS BRIDE by Annabel and Edgar Johnson where 15-year-old Corey finds herself betrothed to a brooding stranger. And wasn't there even a definite hint of romantic tension between Meg Murry and Calvin O'Keefe in A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeline L'Engle? Eloise Jarvis McGraw's MARA DAUGHTER OF THE NILE was one of the first books I read where the hero and heroine were at odds, which was wildly sexy (although I may not have recognized that breathless feeling at the time :)) Patty Bergen and her doomed love Anton Reiker in Bette Greene's SUMMER OF MY GERMAN SOLDIER still haunt me to this day.